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White Oak Residents Demand Answers to Sewage Problems

By Cami DiBattista
The Tube City Almanac
September 23, 2018
Posted in: White Oak News

A room full of White Oak residents attended this month’s borough council meeting to air grievances after they said their homes were flooded with sewage when heavy storms hit the area Sept. 8, 9 and 10.

“I had three inches of sewage in my basement --- sewage, not rain water,” said John Baker, who lives on California Avenue. “Something’s not right. Something has to be done.”

Borough Manager John Palyo issued a statement on behalf of council, saying that White Oak does not own the sanitary sewer system, the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County does.

White Oak Solicitor Krisha DiMascio said the Westmoreland municipal authority was asked to attend the council meeting. No one from the authority attended.

Palyo said the Westmoreland authority owns, operates and maintains the system, and has been notified. Allegheny County's Department of Emergency Services also has been informed, he said.

“We had a very heavy rain incident with relationship to tropical depression Gordon where, in localized areas, we had eight to 10 inches of rain,” he said. “This is a very uncommon, unique event. We are currently maintaining a list of residents who received flooding --- either storm water or sanitary sewer flooding --- from backup drains within their properties.”

Any and all claims, questions and concerns need to be filed with the Westmoreland muncipality authority, which purchased the sewage system about 15 years ago, Palyo said.

“We understand people’s frustrations,” DiMascio said. “But our hands are legally tied. We have no control over them.”

DiMascio suggested residents with concerns may want attend one of the authority's public meetings.

Several residents said this is not the first time their properties have flooded --- some provided video footage of it happening earlier this year, while others alleged it has been happening on a regular occurrence for decades.

Palyo reported that the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County expressed an interest in meeting with council to discuss their plans and intentions after their analyzation of the system, but a meeting has not yet been set up.

Councilman Ken Robb urged residents to notify the sewer authority in writing about the issues that they're having, so that it's on the record.

“This whole council is on your side,” Robb said. “We’ll do whatever we can to help, but people need to put it in writing. Those who were affected should send photos and letters and file insurance claims.”

Council also recommended that residents complain to the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Meanwhile, several residents expressed thanks to local fire departments for responding quickly and providing help to the best of their ability during the storm.

Sealed buckets filled with cleaning supplies, masks and gloves are available at the municipal building to White Oak residents recovering from any type of flooding damage, Mayor Ina Jean Marton said.

Marton thanked members of the United Methodist Church Committee on Relief in Turtle Creek for filling and donating the buckets and Rainbow Volunteer Fire Co. for delivering them.

Cami DiBattista is a freelance writer who covers municipal news from Duquesne and White Oak, along with other topics, for Tube City Almanac. She may be reached at cad316@gmail.com.

Originally published September 23, 2018.

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